What Is The Difference Between Formal And Informal Learning?

Formal And Informal Learning

Considering all the challenges facing training and development, it was a matter of time before advanced platforms to create online courses would adapt to offering opportunities for both formal and informal learning. Deciding which one to use and when can be somewhat ambiguous and tricky. Informal learning vs. formal learning—lets the battle begin. 

What Is Formal Learning?

So, what does formal training mean? Formal learning is what people typically see as learning: a classroom with teachers and learners sitting straight soak up new information like sponges. Formal training programs are often associated with strict rules in official establishments such as schools, universities, training centers, etc. SMBs and large companies use it to upskill and train their employees. 

Formal learning follows a pre-planned framework, and attending lessons is a must. If one skips some part of the material due to absence, one may have difficulty catching up with the rest. The main types of formal training include assessments, lessons, lectures, direct communication with teachers, and additional learning materials such as videos, audio tracks, and guides.

Informal Training Definition

Informal training meaning is quite the opposite of formal training, as it doesn’t include any pre-planned actions. It happens outside the traditional classrooms. Another difference is that proper training involves mentors, teachers, or tutors, but informal training is self-directed, without planned goals, and can happen spontaneously. For example, AcademyOcean shares the lessons, and the workers decide when to learn the given courses. 

For example, when working, it may occur when chatting with coworkers. One shares that they found a better solution, teaching others. Or when a senior employee shares their experience with newbies. Such processes appear spontaneously, often uncontrolled. One can encourage workers to use and create informal learning opportunities. 

Formal And Informal Learning Opportunities

The development of e-learning systems allowed the utilization of both approaches. AcademyOcean already has built-in potential to arrange both formal and informal learning in a cloud-based LMS. Let’s take a look at formal learning experiences and ways of mixing them with informal elements. 

1. The question of content

It may seem that choosing between two types of learning is easy, and the main idea is to know what knowledge you want to deliver to learners. Legal, medical, and safety learning is better when done formally, adding informal learning elements. Informally, customer service and product knowledge are much more effective. The human factor is the main difference in these fields. 

2. Adding engagement level

Formal learning is pretty compelling, delivering big chunks of materials to readers. But, with flaws, for example, one may get bored and simply tired of learning the continuous flow of materials. From this perspective, adding informal elements can reduce boredom and refresh the audience. Examples include gamification elements or arranging a role-playing game, simulating some aspects. Those are very convenient for keeping learners engaged.

3. Creating a microlearning course

A great example of using formal and informal education is splitting large materials into micro ones. You use a formal approach when introducing learners to the material. And then apply the element of informal learning to give them a handbook of microlearning courses to return to in the time of need. 

4. Divide the topics

I am talking about shifting accents and not choosing between two entities. Both formal and informal learning suits best for specific topics. For example, arrange a formal safety learning course and test your workers’ knowledge by running an informal simulation. 

5. Compensating

Do you remember what the challenges of online learning are? The lack of clear instructions, problems with time management, feedback, false expectations, etc. All these aspects can be compensated by applying formal and informal learning.

Wrapping up

The main question is not how informal, and formal learning differs, but how one can use them and benefit. Formal and informal learning are firmly anchored in our lives, offering an excellent and reliable way to upskill workers, learners, etc. Having two options and must pick between formal or informal learning, pick the third one—utilize both, as the combination of these two types of learning allows reaching incredible results. 


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